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Search Warrants and Civil Liability

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The US Supreme Court decided three cases today, one of which is a crime-related civil suit, Messerschmidt v. Millender.  This decision confirms that getting a search warrant provides a police officer with strong protection against civil liability if the search is later deemed unreasonable.  The protection is not absolute.  The Court has "recognized an exception allowing suit when 'it is obvious that no reasonably competent officer would have concluded that a warrant should issue.' ... Our precedents make clear, however, that the threshold for establishing this exception is a high one, and it should be."  The decision is 6-1-2.  Opinion of the Court by Chief Justice Roberts with Justice Kagan concurring in part and dissenting in part and Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting.

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Kagan's view seems unworkable. Are we really going to parse questions as finely as she supposes?

Some takeaways: (1) If you let gang members hang out at your place, there may be times where the cops come to search your place. (2) The review of reasonableness isn't going to be artificially restricted by the decisionmaking process of the officers. The search for the gang-related paraphernalia was justified, and related to the "don't snitch" threat. This makes sense, since a neutral magistrate may have all sorts of reasons for granting a warrant that are other than what the cops come up with.

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